What It Meant To Me

14 09 2008


Tribute to Peace in Unification Park, Imjingak

Tribute to Peace in Unification Park, Imjingak

Last Sunday, those of us who traveled to South Korea reported out to our congregation on our trip. We were sent there on a mission to teach vacation bible school in English to 180+ children at a sister church in Seoul. After the 5-day program, we had a week to explore the city and travel to Jeju Island, the “Hawaii” of South Korea.


For this session, each of us was asked to talk about about what was most memorable about the trip and why. We were asked to think of the trip in terms of a journey or process of growth and/or exploration. 

Here were my thoughts. 

My journey actually began on August 3, 1980 when I and 25-30 other teenagers boarded a bus that took us from Pennsylvania to JFK airport to catch British Airways flight 177 to London Heathrow. We were part of a cultural exchange program sponsored by Rotary International.

My ultimate destination was a small town called Ramsbottom nestled in a valley just outside of Manchester in the north of England. During my 3-week visit, I stayed at the home of the president of the local Rotary Club experiencing life as he and his family lived it.

Tribute to Peace in Unification Park, Imjingak

Tribute to Peace in Unification Park, Imjingak


Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I had a rather sheltered childhood, learning about world cultures mostly through books – the kind without pictures. I was fascinated at how my English family was different and still the same as my family in so many ways. For me it was an eye-opening, life-changing experience that set me on a path of travel, discovery, and cultural exchange that has been a constant in my life ever since.

I’ve been very blessed. My journey has taken me throughout western Europe and Iceland and through the shanty towns in South Africa and Zambia and the farming villages of China. I’ve toured the fetid canals of Bangkok and the hillside tribe villages of northern Thailand where the main mode of transportation is the elephant. I even spent one New Year’s Eve in the tiny shack-like home of a family who lives in the mountainous region north of Tokyo, Japan.

Our recent trip to Seoul is yet another leg on what has become a life-long journey. What is most memorable to me about that trip are the same things that caught my attention 28 years ago in England — the ways in which we are the same despite the differences in our languages, customs, lifestyles, dress, foods.


Tribute to Peace, Unification Park, Imjingak

Tribute to Peace, Unification Park, Imjingak

Through my own experiences, I have come to believe that the path to world peace lies somewhere in cultural exchange and our willingness to step out of our own comfort zone to experience life through a different filter. Every time I’ve done that I’ve discovered that no matter what part of the world we live, the things that unite us far outnumber the things that make us different. 

I also believe that it is particularly important for our children and our youth to understand and experience this for themselves. It is my hope, maybe my dream, that by walking for a day, a week or two weeks in step with others from a different part of the world that they can gain the knowledge, compassion and empathy that it takes to make this world a safer, more peaceful place. 

Call me crazy, call me idealistic, call me naive if that suits you, but only AFTER you’ve told me what you’ve done lately to make the world a more peaceful place.


Friends in Seoul

Friends in Seoul




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